Chilling in his shady room because the solar beats by the window of his Lagos, Nigeria pad, a trendy, Corteiz beanie-wearing determine emerges promptly on display for his Zoom interview. He’s prepared to talk with NME, particularly after displaying his mother and father our four-star overview of his newest album and proudly telling them: “’You see! I’m doing one thing!’”
The determine is 29-year-old Merciless Santino, previously often called Santi, and the report is ‘Subaru Boys: FINAL HEAVEN’, a drastic 180 from the softer, charming takes on afrobeats he’d cultivated on its 2019 predecessor ‘Mandy & The Jungle’. He as a substitute revels in a harder-edged, psychedelic sound on his alté-inspired third studio album, a temper epitomised by the trippy ‘official visualizer’ for its ethereal breather monitor ‘Stunning Nothing’, which options Warwick, New York’s bed room popper Gus Dapperton.
When he launched ‘Mandy & The Jungle’ and his 2016 debut ‘Suzie’s Funeral’, Merciless Santino glided by the title Santi – he was born Osayaba Andrew Ize-Iyamu – however modified it as a result of a Spanish artist already had the moniker. These clean information channeled the dancehall, afrobeats and hip-hop he consumed all through his childhood. This time round, he felt in a position to swap it up after shredding his concern of being ridiculed for a way eccentric his other ways might be – in Nigeria, alté is just an ‘various’ to the dominant funky afrobeat sound, which itself spawned modern afrobeats. Alté, then, is a genre-busting, something goes model that defies categorisation. For Merciless Santino, on ‘Subaru boys: Closing Heaven’, it means sci-fi-inspired sounds that throb with Eurodance beats and the spiky manufacturing of hyper-pop.
“I needed to indicate folks how rather more music I’ve in me,” Santino tells NME. “‘Mandy And The Jungle’ could be very pricey to folks. However, in some ways, I used to be nonetheless conforming as a result of I used to be in an area the place you’ll be able to’t danger it an excessive amount of. Folks bought accustomed to me from ‘Mandy…’ however they didn’t know that I might rap.” In a style the place there’s no constraints, alté permits stars like Santino ample alternative to reinvent themselves. Simply have a look at his pals and frequent collaborators, the baby-voiced Amaarae (presently using excessive from her 2020’s ‘SAD GURLZ LUV MONEY’) and the cocksure wildcard Odunsi, The Engine.
Throughout lockdown, Santino was enthralled in his personal world of gaming (significantly the snowboarding recreation Steep), anime and music, which grew to become “one large matrix” for him. This private bubble was the beginning place of ‘Subaru Boys…’, a report that completely blends afrobeats basslines with hyperactive synths. “In quarantine, one thing occurred the place, for those who watch numerous movies, play numerous video games, being inside that a lot fuses you into all of the issues that you just love,” Merciless Santino says. “That gave me the concept for this subsequent challenge. I used to be making an attempt to conceptualise [its] world as a result of that’s how I do my initiatives. I type of need to make the world in my head, so I can switch [my thoughts] to sound.”
‘Subaru Boys…’’s adventurous storyline invitations you to journey by a ‘house conflict’ with Santino because the commander-in-charge. Why would the once-romantic music maker wish to make music surrounding conflict? “I really feel like every thing begins with conflict,” he replies, explaining the theme needn’t be taken actually: “People who do artwork and stuff like which are in a battle inside themselves to specific themselves. And usually, I really feel typically that, when it doesn’t need to be lethal, conflict could be stunning.”
The album’s penultimate tune, the melancholic ‘Soiled Eyes, Evil Manners’, options British grime MC turned worldwide rap star Skepta. As a giant fan of the Tottenham artist, who helped to encourage his sense of inventive individuality, the monitor was really a full-circle second for Santino. It was much more mind-blowing that Skepta sings in addition to raps on the tune.
“It was insane as a result of, after I despatched ‘Soiled Eyes, Evil Manners’ off to Skepta – that tune, to me, is grime; he’s grime,” says Santino. “What’s loopy about it’s I [sing in] a British accent on that tune, so I used to be like, ‘I would like him on this’. However I used to be scared that he would have been like, ‘What the fuck is that this?’. Skepta tapped into the vibe, although, as a result of I haven’t heard him rap-sing for some time. So the truth that he did that – that is the most effective present he might give me. I grew up listening to Skepta, and I actually look as much as Skepta and the sense of how he was at all times by himself and he bridged a niche that folks couldn’t bridge. It took him time, however he did it.”
Crowing up in Ikeja, the capital state of Lagos State, Santino says he “didn’t have any pals”. As an alternative he plugged in to music: his auntie performed him various American celebrity Santigold (who impressed his unique moniker) and he found an early love of Sean Paul. “[Because] I didn’t actually develop up with pals,” he explains, “I was into listening to stuff, and with what I heard, I discovered escapism. It seems like me consuming that a lot selection at such a younger age has given me this factor in me that simply permits me to fuse stuff and be with out boundaries”.
No surprise Santino grew as much as be hailed because the face of alté, whose success is summed up by the Spotify playlist ‘Alté Cruise’, which has racked up just below 60,000 followers. And that quantity will certainly rise as afro-R&B stars dip into the scene to develop alté’s attain even additional. Take a look at Tems, whose beloved function on Wizkid’s ‘Essence’ drew tens of millions of streamers on her personal debut challenge, the 2021 EP ‘If Orange Was A Place’. Can Santino supply a single definition of the slippery subgenre that the world is steadily falling in love with?
“I really feel like, within the subsequent couple of years, the most important rock tune can come out of Nigeria”
“There’s no definition for [alté] but as a result of it’s nonetheless rising,” Santino insists. “Individuals are nonetheless discovering themselves – all the blokes that had been making [afrobeat] funk within the ‘70s and stuff, I’m fairly certain they had been various too. However we’re the primary bunch to be pushed into the limelight for alté, who’re formulating the tradition round it. Folks would possibly not likely get what you’re doing as a result of that’s the entire level of being various, I assume. It was a danger happening to make the songs I’ve made however I felt very assured in myself.”
“The rationale it’s so necessary to me and others within the style to showcase ourselves is that Nigerian music is greater than only one sort of music. I really feel like there are such a lot of children in Nigeria and the entire continent that wish to make their very own sound. You’ll be able to’t let your setting inform you which you can’t make music or you’ll be able to’t dream that far. There are simply no boundaries, no definitions – all expression”.
For years to return, Santino desires to proceed his quest of liberating extra who that come after him, with the aim being not solely his personal world domination, and never solely that of Nigerians, however for the entire continent of Africa to be working issues within the music world.
“I’ve two objectives,” he says firmly. “The primary aim is to create an area through which individuals who come after are free sufficient to experiment and push their sound extra. I really feel like, within the subsequent couple of years, the most important rock tune can come out of Nigeria. The most important rap tune on the planet can come out of Nigeria as a result of we have now that expertise, too. I need folks to create with out concern as a result of once they create with out it, they’re going so as to add one thing that may change the world. We want extra folks to maintain bridging gaps and creating new sounds.”
– Merciless Santino’s ‘SUBARU BOYS: FINAL HEAVEN’ is out now by way of Monster Boy / Interscope